Background: When we build ponds in urban areas, they can play a number of important roles: managing floodwater, cooling the urban environment, removing pollution, improving the appearance of built-up areas and providing a habitat for wildlife. However, these different functions often require different forms of management, and so urban managers typically prioritise one or a small number of purposes. We were interested in the biodiversity value of ponds in Bradford in the UK.
What we did: My MSc student, Andrew Noble, surveyed a series of 21 sites across Bradford including 11 ponds that were prioritised for biodiversity, 6 ponds that were prioritised for amenity (usually park lakes and other ornamental features), and 4 ponds that were used as overflow ponds for water management. He surveyed aquatic plants and aquatic invertebrates to investigate patterns of biodiversity. This was then compared against what would be expected from high quality ponds of similar size (called a “reference site approach”). The results showed that the urban ponds were generally of very low quality, and that unsurprisingly the biodiversity ponds tended to contain higher numbers of animals and plants. However, this was not always the case and some amenity and overflow ponds contained more species despite not being managed for biodiversity. Finally, Andrew talked with managers who, while obviously enthusiastic about biodiversity, were unaware of important local factors that were influencing their sites, such as run-off from local sports fields which were likely contributing to algal blooms.
Importance: There have been a range of studies (including some by me) which have suggested that urban ponds can provide substantial benefits for biodiversity. However, these high value ponds are relatively rare, and it is important that we understand what factors result in some ponds being of high value while others are not. This study suggests that management could play a major role.
This is part of a series of short lay summaries that describe the technical publications I have authored. This paper, entitled “Poor ecological quality of urban ponds in northern England: causes and consequences”, was published in the journal Urban Ecosystems in 2014. You can find this paper at the publisher’s website.
Inspired by this xkcd comic, and facilitated by this online tool, people have been summarising all kinds of ideas using the 1,000 most common words. Naturally PhD students have latched onto this as a source of procrastination and, in a show of solidarity, I decided to join them (this was during my lunch break – honest!). Here’s my PhD thesis:
My work looks at how animals change as the world gets warmer. My animal is like a fly but it has four flying bits, eats other animals, and has big eyes. By looking at where people saw these animals in the past, I figured out how the place and time at which they appear changes with how hot it is. I found that they appear earlier when it is hot, which is interesting because these animals spend most of their lives in water. Animals in water had not been shown to change when they appear in this way before. I also looked at the ways in which we look at changes in where animals appear and showed the best way to look at this problem. Last, I looked at how the form of these animals changes as they move when it gets hotter. I found that the animals that had moved a long way had a form that made it easy for them to move (like big flying bits). In short, the changes shown by the animals that I looked at can be used to build a case for a warming world.
Looks a bit gormless, to be honest…
Classic “dead spider pose”
A bit more dignified, after I had rearranged him to look a bit less dead.. The fade to black in the background wasn’t intentional, but I like it!
A ventral (stomach) view. This species is quite easy to confuse with a harvestman (related to spiders, but not spiders), if you don’t know what to look for. To tell harvestmen from spiders, look for the join between the thorax (the body segment with legs) and the abdomen (the segment that doesn’t have legs). If you can see the join clearly where there is a “pinched-off” section then it is a spider. Harvestmen have fused segments so that it looks like the thorax and abdomen are one.
First, a warning to anyone who doesn’t like spiders: I was trying out my macro again, and there are some pretty big close-ups… Now that that’s over with, this week I wanted to try out a new toy. I had been hoping that my new light box would arrive for last week’s macro attempt, […]
Wasp – this one adopted this stranger pose when I dumped him out of the box. I made me think of Rodin’s “Thinker”…
The Flying Spaghetti Monster, in all his noodly majesty… (or maybe an old spider)
Many moths (as you might expect from a light fitting)
A few beetles
I liked the colours that this fly managed to retain (I have no idea how long any of these have been stuck there!)
I struggled to get high-quality photos without more magnification, so here are some pins :-)
Last week I mentioned being inspired by this fascination post from Dragonfly Woman, who looked at the diversity of insects that had passed-on in various light fittings around her home. I thought I would try the same thing, as it gives an opportunity to get close to the wee beasties without them running away. Here’s the result: […]
“We should be extremely cautious in concluding that an organ could not have been formed by transitional gradations of some kind. Numerous cases could be given amongst the lower animals of the same organ performing at the same time wholly distinct functions; thus in the larva of the dragonfly… the alimentary canal respires, digests and excretes.”
I had the pleasure this evening of introducing Prof Root Gorelick to give a lecture to the local Centre for Inquiry group here in Ottawa. I have seen him give a number of relatively provocative talks at conferences and I knew his engaging style and fascinating subject matter would make for an interesting evening. Some people have asked me to summarise the talk as they couldn’t make it, so here is my best attempt while it is still fresh in my mind… Read More »